So, you've finally decided that you want to get a tattoo – awesome!
However, there's a lot more to it than just walking into a tattoo shop and declaring that you want to get tattooed – at least, if you want to do it right.
Follow this timeline and do your research in advance so that you're completely ready when the big day comes.
At least one month before (up to 6 months):
Research your design. Google searches, Pinterest, and other sites are fantastic for this. Save your top favorites or even have an artsy friend design a whole new look.
Brainstorm placement on your body. How visible do you want it? What size? Will those body parts change and distort the image over time?
Look into the local tattoo parlors near you. Yelp is a great resource to find reviews, hours, price ranges, and even see examples past customers have posted. Research if they meet health-code is very important as well.
One week before:
Set up a consultation. This can be done over the phone or by walk-in. In person is recommended to discuss your design, but sometimes over the phone is more convenient with busy schedules.
Schedule your appointment. You can most likely do this at the time of your consultation. Note: Your artist may or may not ask for a deposit at that time. Pay it if they ask for it.
Get a doctor's note, but only if you have a viable reason to. Most people can sit down in the chair without one, but some people with specific health conditions will need approval.
The night before:
Shower and shave the area clean. You'll be close to the tattoo artist for an extended period of time, so personal hygiene is important. In addition, the area must be clean of all hair in order to be tattooed, so be sure to shave ahead of time.
Sober up. Don't drink the night before getting a tattoo. Not only is it illegal to tattoo someone under the influence, but getting a tattoo is a draining experience physically. You don't want to be hungover while they're inking you.
The day of:
Skip the coffee. Coffee thins the blood and can make you more susceptible to bleeding,
Shower again. Make sure that you are clean, fresh, and feeling ready to go. This cannot be emphasized enough.
Eat plenty and drink lots of water. Getting a tattoo can be a long process, and your blood sugar levels will go up and down during the process. You really don't want to pass out.
Bring your wallet. Your artist will most likely make sure you are legally old enough to get a tattoo, and of course you will have to pay your artist after they are done. (Don't forget to tip!)
Do your best to relax. We're all nervous our first time doing under the gun. Having a friend there and even a blanket and pillow for bigger pieces can make the experience more enjoyable.
Note: After you get your tattoo, follow the instructions your artist will most likely give you. They'll have the best advice for when to remove the bandage, what moisturizer to use, when to start using sunscreen, etc. Remember – they are the expert, NOT your friends or randoms on the internet.
Good luck, and welcome to the world of being inked!